PHILADELPHIA — Pretending for a second that you can ignore the fact that another Flyers game Saturday ended in humiliating defeat, hey, how about that Tyson Foerster?
The Phantoms promotee scored his first NHL goal Saturday night … which could have led the Flyers to an inflating, comeback victory over the Metropolitan Division-leading Carolina Hurricanes. Instead, the spark Foerster lit for the Flyers did result in them taking a late-game lead, then beautifully blowing it at the end of regulation and the start of overtime, which resulted in a 5-4 Hurricanes victory.
“It’s a good feeling to score, but at the end of the day we didn’t win the game,” the 21-year-old Foerster said. “So you just have to move on to the next game. I feel like every game for me, it’s been a learning (experience), gaining confidence. I just wish we came up with the win.”
To a player, the Flyers have had lots of wishes this season, with very few of them being granted. Foerster’s primary wish — and one of many for those around him — is that he is given the opportunity to show what he can do. A first-round draft pick (No. 23 overall) in 2020, Foerster took little time in appearing to be a blooming star while playing 24 games for the AHL’s Phantoms in 2020-21, scoring 10 goals and 17 points in that time.
But early in his next season, he suffered a shoulder injury that knocked him out for the season. Foerster did bounce back this season, however, scoring 19 goals and 39 points and finally getting a late-season promotion to the Flyers. In just his fifth NHL game, he scored a second-period goal that helped spark a Flyers comeback against the ‘Canes.
One that wouldn’t last long enough.
Despite some excellent lead protection by backup goalie Felix Sandstrom, they couldn’t hold the lead. Losing a succession of faceoffs and failing miserably all game in trying to clear pucks out of their defensive zone, the Flyers gave up a tying goal with three-tenths of a second remaining in regulation.
Maybe they were still shellshocked when overtime started with Sebastian Aho cruising down ice, making Tony DeAngelo look foolish while passing the puck to himself through the Flyers’ defender’s feet, then beating Sandstrom all of 28 seconds into overtime.
“It’s pretty tough,” said young center Noah Cates, who won all of 8 of 26 faceoff tries in contributing to the ‘Canes belated victory. “It’s definitely hard to look back and see what kind of plays could have been there. Obviously a big opportunity for me to work on it and be out there in a huge part of the game. It just sucks that it kind of slipped away.”
Yes it does, but then we’re looking at the positives here, with the focus on Foerster, who had an assist in the previous game, an actual win over Buffalo, and now has two points in five games and should feel comfortable that he’s going to be part of his last-month perp walk toward the offseason.
Along the way, these Flyers (25-32-12, 62 points) are 2-11 in the second game of back-to-back, consecutive day starts. Overall, they last won two in a row on Jan. 11-14. Yes, that’s more than two months ago.
John Tortorella is still overseeing this … development.
“Not going to replay all that stuff right now,” Tortorella said. “You guys can watch the video yourself.”
So a team playing younger players, which with season-long injuries to Sean Couturier and Cam Atkinson, that’s exactly what they have to be, is going to make mistakes. You expect it. Must wear on a veteran head coach as well as on the few veteran players that have to toil through the learning process, of course.
“I thought we played really well,” Tortorella added. “I thought we had the game controlled and … I don’t know how to evaluate it right now.”
But aside from mistakes and the obvious shortcomings in the faceoff department, Tortorella did have a more positive spoken thought on the younger players such as Foerster and Cates and whoever else is going through an NHL development program while in a Flyers uniform.
“Encouraging stuff with the kids,” he said.
And what more would there be to say?
“I felt pretty good tonight. It was nice to finally one past the goalie,” Foerster said. “But this league is all about confidence, and mine’s pretty high about now.”
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